RSS Feed

Author Archives: ScrambledMeg

A Stranger in Paradise


A week ago, I spent the day in Santa Barbara, gluttonously seeing four movies in a row.  I went primarily for the Santa Barbara Film Festival, but, thanks to magical timing, I got the added bonus of the incredible Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market.  In the middle of a downtown parking lot, I met a stranger, sitting alone on a table under a tent.  While I chatted with a man from McGrath Farms about fava beans, fresh vs. dried, this gorgeous guy caught my eye.  He had a mysterious, exotic air about him, like a belly dancer with veiled eyes and swirling hips, and I just HAD to know him.  I took a deep breath, smoothed my crazy Butterfly Beach hair and approached slowly.  His name was Kuri —  Kuri Squash, to be exact — and he was lovely.

I could hardly wait to bring him home with me.  I asked where this little guy came from and how one might cook him, etc., but the only answer I got was “I just picked them this morning.”  SOLD.

I brought the little man into my kitchen and just did what any self-respecting, demure, blonde-headed girl would do — I grabbed my cleaver.  I cut the squash into six triangle-ish chunks, scooped out the seeds and did literally NOTHING else to prep them.  I put them, cut sides down on a sheet of foil on a cookie sheet (why set yourself up for a major clean-up, huh?) and threw them into a 375• oven.  I turned on Project Runway All Stars and waited . . . and waited . . . and was rewarded, after about 20 minutes, with the roasty-toasty smell of nuts and honey and childhood wafting out of the oven.  When I pulled them out, they looked like this:

Nothing spectacular to look at, I know.  I scooped the warm, caramel-colored flesh out of the shell, and SHAZAM — best squash ever.  The texture was similar to freshly roasted chestnuts, and the flavor was nutty and rich with a little bit of sweetness.  There’s also a meaty quality about this squash, which gave me the idea to include it in a veggie burger.  It gives great body, density and a just a hint of creaminess to any bean-based burger.  It would also be fantastic inside homemade ravioli or smashed into mashed potatoes or pureed with a bit of broth and sauteed aromatics and ginger into soup, maybe finished with a touch of cream.  I suppose when I cook for other people, I’ll go all jazzy with my Kuri.  But today, when it’s just li’l ole me, I’ll enjoy this guy au natural — perfectly roasted with a little sprinkle of fancy salt.  In my experience, the really good guys are fantastic without all the fuss.

Advertisements

Sometimes It Ain’t Purty

Well, I’m sick, sick as a dog.  I hate that stupid expression, because, right now, I’m sicker than any dog ever even THOUGHT of being.  After the last 24 hours of fever, chills, coughing, congestion and general malaise, I’m pretty sure I have the flu.  In addition to my actual illness, I also have this mental illness wherein I fully believe, with every fiber of my being, that I will ALWAYS be this sick.  This is it.  This is how I’m going to my grave.  Of course, I realize I’m being dramatic and that I’m a big baby, but that doesn’t stop my torrent of self-pity.  When I’m sick, I mope around, feel sorry for myself and wonder why the whole world doesn’t show up at my bedside with mint-chip ice cream and bouquets of flowers.  I’M SICK, DAMMIT!  Why is everyone just living their lives as if nothing’s happened???

The first step to my recovery is a delightful combination of DayQuil, NyQuil, Advil & Tylenol.  BUT — the next step is soup and lots of it.  Chicken soup is traditional, but, last time I checked, it contains the little feathery friends I have in my front yard, so it’s not an option.  Instead, I go for my Very Green Soup — lots and lots of it.  It’s a pretty simple recipe — in fact, I had to work to even come up with an actual, legit recipe — because you basically cook all the greens you can find in a big pot and puree them.  Kale, spinach, collard greens, swiss chard — whatever you’ve got, throw them in!  Greens give you boatloads of Vitamin A, C, fiber, and are a natural anti-inflammatory, which is awfully helpful when every tissue of your body feels inflamed.  I’ve sketched out a recipe below, but don’t be scared to experiment with whatever greens and herbs you can find.

** You may notice that I’ve not included a photo of this soup.  Well, that wasn’t an accident.  It’s literally the ugliest thing you’ll ever cook, but, I promise, it will make your body oh-so-happy.

VERY GREEN SOUP

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 T. olive oil, divided

1 T. chopped ginger

¼ c. rice, white, basmati or Arborio (If you want to use brown, use cooked rice, and add it toward the end of cooking)

1 bunch collard greens, roughly chopped

1 bunch kale, roughly chopped

1 bunch spinach, roughly chopped

Chopped, fresh, soft herbs — cilantro, parsley, thyme, tarragon, basil (whatever you like)

Pinch of cayenne

Salt & Pepper

Tofu, cubed (optional)

Lots of fresh lemon juice

Start by caramelizing onions and carrots.  In a small pan, heat olive oil over high heat and add onions & carrots and a pinch of salt.  When the veggies start to brown,  add a splash of water, turn the heat down, cover and let them caramelize (about 20 minutes).

In a soup pot, heat 3 c. water and a teaspoon of salt and add rice.  After 15 minutes, stir in the collards and the kale and bring back to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Add spinach, along with caramelized onions, carrot and ginger to pot and season with cayenne & salt & pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes, until spinach is just cooked through.  Toss in fresh herbs.

Puree soup either in blender (in batches) or with an immersion blender until it’s the consistency you like.  Season again with salt & pepper to taste, add tofu (if using) and squeeze lots of fresh lemon juice to serve.

C’mere, Sweet Pea!

Oooh!  Ain’t she purty??  This, my friends, is a lovely, juicy, sweet pea green — an incredible part of the pea plant that, until recently, only the Asians of the world fully appreciated.  This little sucker (literally a sucker, since it’s part of the actual vine of the plant) sings like Streisand raw or cooked.  If you opt to pick the leaves and throw them in a salad straight from your spring garden, you’ll taste the delicate flavor of raw peas — that indescribable, almost citrus pop of spring.  If you’re as lucky as I, and find these beauties in your not-at-all-wintry December garden of Southern California, you may be in the mood to pretend it really is winter, turn on your fireplace app and cook up something warm and cozy.  And that’s when you heat a little olive oil in a pan and flash saute these babies until they’re barely wilted.  Sprinkle with some delicious sea salt, squeeze a little chunk of lemon over the top and enjoy!  Just don’t overcook them, or the little divas will most certainly cease singing and I will personally show up at your house and issue a citation.  If you cook them too long, they’ll turn dull and vegetal, and, trust me, you will be sad.  Real sad.  If your husband happens to be the one to overcook them, you may be forced to raise your voice, weep fat tears and make his life miserable for a day . . . or two . . . or until you get a foot rub.  I’m just saying, DO NOT OVERCOOK PEA GREENS.

FYI, don’t panic — you don’t have to grow the peas yourself.  Across this gorgeous country of ours, we have farmers’ markets sprouting up just about every weekend.  Look for them.  Ask the farmers.  They’ll hook you up.  Also, if you wanna get a little fancy, you could quick saute the greens, add a spoonful of creme fraiche and grate a bit of fresh nutmeg over the top.  Or, stir them into a light, lemony fettuccine and top with toasted, crushed almonds.  Oooh!  I almost forgot — I also love them stirred into buttery scrambled eggs at the last second and sprinkled with truffle salt.  OK, now I’m starving — I gotta go pick some more greens.

Horoscopes and Hogwash

So, usually I think horoscopes are nonsense.  **Note to Readers:  At this moment, my mother has blanched and is fanning her bosom (and for that visual, you’re welcome, all the men in my family)**  My mom has sent me my daily, monthly and yearly horoscopes since the advent of email, and even gave me an “astrological reading” one year for Christmas.  The astrologist told me I would fall madly in love that year, and I promptly told her she was nuts.  Then, three months later, I locked eyes with the love of my life, the man I just kissed as he took our daughter to soccer practice.  Now, don’t get me wrong, even finding true love did not convince me horoscopes have any credence, but I still take a peek from time to time.

For the next two days, I have a mountain of pressure hanging over me.  I’ve got to PERFORM in front of a lot of people, and, even though that’s my job, it can still sometimes send me swirling into the abyss that is my blonde head.  When a script is beautifully written, I can’t stop  thinking it’s mine to ruin, and that messes with my mojo.  I’m most often super-clutch when it comes to grace and performance under pressure.  I mean, when the time actually comes, I’ll feel the world slow down and hear my breath, and all will be just fine.  However, the days leading up to the event can be rough.  So, I peeked.  I peeked at the horoscope.  It’s a dangerous move, folks, kinda like stepping on the scale before a big date.  Don’t do it.  I don’t recommend it.  NOT SAFE.

But today, I scored.  In the grand scheme of things, I’m such a lucky, lucky girl, and it’s always nice to be reminded:

December 19, 2011

AriesAries (3/21-4/19)  Your task today is to appreciate everything. This doesn’t mean that you should write a thank-you note for everyone who smiles at you today, but it does mean that you should take an extra second every once in a while to remind yourself that you have it so much better than so many other people. Sure, things aren’t perfect — and sometimes the people you love can drive you a bit crazy. But you wouldn’t trade it for anything — this is a day to contemplate that.

Mama’s Biscuits

 

OK.  Sometimes I just wake up in the morning and need a little comfort.  Yes, my feet are still warm from bed and there’s not a cloud in the sky, but I DON’T KNOW – sometimes it just feels like one of those days.  On those days, I whip up biscuits.  No, my mom didn’t make biscuits when I was a kid.  My grandmother didn’t even make biscuits when I was a kid.  I just have some perfect, Americana vision of my child (in the year 2041, when dogs will probably fly), whipping up biscuits and saying  “Awwwww.  This reminds me of my Mama.”

So here are the greatest biscuits ever made.  You MUST follow the recipe exactly.  Usually, I loathe exact recipes – however, in baking, there is a bit of science, so we are handcuffed by rules.  They take only minutes, as long as you keep a little buttermilk in your fridge.  Make them tomorrow.  Make them for Thanksgiving.  Make them for Wednesday.  You don’t need a reason.  Just make them because you dig the big people and the little people you live with.

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

(Makes 12 biscuits)

2 c (10 oz) all purpose flour

1 T baking powder

1T sugar

1t salt

½ t baking soda

4 T cold, unsalted butter, chopped

1 ½ c cold buttermilk

Heat oven to 500• .  Grease 9-in. round cake pan.  Grease ¼ c measuring cup.

In your food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda to combine.  Scatter butter over dry ingredients.  Pulse until it looks like small pebbles.  Pour mixture into bowl & add buttermilk.  Stir with spatula just until incorporated.  (This will look like a mess – lumpy and droopy and wet).

Use your greased measuring cup to spoon up ¼ c. dough.  Drop the plop onto a floured baking sheet.  Continue with remaining dough, greasing cup when necessary.  Sprinkle flour over dough plops and GENTLY pick up each on, shake off excess flour and set into prepped cake pan.   (Treat these little plops like newborn babies – GENTLE).  Brush with melted butter.  Bake 5 minutes, then reduce temp to 450 until they’re golden brown.  Cool in pan a couple of minutes and then invert into a towel and let cool 5 more minutes, or until you are swarmed by hungry customers.  Drizzle with honey and try not to eat the whole batch . . . I dare you.

 

A Love Letter to Nutritional Yeast

HELLO, LOVER.

Not since Pee Cola                                                                                                                          and AYDS diet chews

                                                                       

has a less appealing name been chosen for a product.  NUTRITIONAL YEAST?  It sounds like something to look out for when you’re changing clothes in a locker room or using a public toilet.  Nonetheless, I can forgive the unfortunate name, because I DIG THIS STUFF.  I will go so far as to say it’s miraculous.  It gives that unctuous, je ne sais quoi, UMAMI to whatever it touches.  It makes naked, tasteless, air-popped popcorn sing like Nacho Cheese Doritos.  In a word, it’s awesome.

A few facts about Nutritional Yeast:  in two tablespoons, you get 60 calories, 1 gram of fat, trace sodium, 70% of your daily requirement of Vitamin B12 and 353% of your daily requirement of Riboflavin.  While Riboflavin may sound like a D list rapper from the 90’s, it’s actually a key player in energy metabolism and in burning and using all the fats and carbohydrates you ingest.  B12 is one of the hot button topics in most vegetarian nutritional discussions as well, since the most common nutritional sources of it are innards, shellfish and chicken.  Having just used the word “innards” and making myself a bit nauseous, I’ll try to get back on track.

You should buy this stuff and use it like you use salt & pepper or parmesan cheese.  Think sprinkling it over hot pasta, sautéed veggies, scrambled eggs, omelettes, warm salads, rice, literally anything that needs a little extra zing at the end of cooking.  I’ll work on some actual recipes, but until then, pick some up and start experimenting.  I’d love to hear about any new uses for my favorite product-of-the-moment . . . but not if you’re putting it on innards.  You can keep that to yourself.

My Interview in my favorite magazine (and website), Vegetarian Times

one on one

BY Chris Mann

MEGYN PRICE

This actress stays true to her heartland roots

Off the set of her CBS-TV comedy series Rules of Engagement, you’ll likely find Megyn Price cultivating her extensive herb and vegetable garden and adding to her collection of veg recipes, which she’s compiling into a cookbook. “To me, cooking vegetarian is an expression of love. It’s saying, I’m taking care of my family. I’m taking care of myself. I’m taking care of animals that aren’t being killed,” she says. “A cookbook is about sharing the joy of that.”

Q:  How did the birth of your daughter, Grace, four years ago, affect your diet?

A:  I’d already started eating less and less meat, and then my daughter popped out of the womb a vegetarian. Because of her I stopped cooking meat. She wouldn’t eat it. So she sort of turned me. The final straw was reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals. He’s not preachy, but he definitely doesn’t pull any punches.

Q:  Have your country roots influenced your gardening?

A:  My mom was my first inspiration. She heard that if you planted hot peppers next to your tomatoes, the bugs wouldn’t eat the tomatoes. There’s an organic gardening idea right there! I remember when I was a little kid my mom gave my brother and me our own little patch and said, “You can plant whatever you want.” I grew peas because I hated peas. My mom told me, “If you grow peas, you will not hate peas.” And I realized that what I hated was frozen peas cooked within an inch of mush. But peas out of the ground I loved!

Q:  This year you’re preparing a totally veg Thanksgiving meal for your omnivore relatives. What might be on the menu?

A:  I like to bake a sourdough rye-buckwheat bread, and then toast that for breadcrumbs to use in a sage stuffing. I also make a killer lentil salad; it has all these vibrant, crunchy vegetables in it. And my walnut–green apple salad has become my favorite thing in the universe.

Q:  You lobbied for Meatless Mondays on the set of Rules of Engagement. What happened with that?

A:  I had to fight to get the producers to go along with it. I was so excited. I put up all these signs and posters to let people know what was going on and encourage them. Some people actually got angry. But there were many more people who came up to me and said it was delicious, and a great thing.

Q:  What keeps you grounded as an Oklahoma girl in Hollywood?

A:  Definitely home. I’m happiest in my cutoff shorts in my garden. As an actress starting out in my 20s, I thought I had to be skinny, and I was so scared of food. And a really good friend said, “Plant a garden. Because once you do you will have such respect and joy and love for the miracle that is food.” I feel like my garden cures me.

Freelance writer Chris Mann grew up watching sitcoms in his boyhood home in rural Oklahoma.

http://www.vegetariantimes.com